I sip the coffee. “How exactly?”
“There are a number of treatment options we can explore. Psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, creative therapy. Even clinical hypnosis. I just want you to know that nothing is more important to me than helping you through this.”
Amanda stares into my eyes with a sudden, unnerving intensity, searching them as if the mysteries of our existence have been written on my corneas.
“You really don’t know me?” she asks.
Rising from the chair, she takes her things.
“Leighton will be up soon to take you down for the MRI. I just want to help you, Jason, however I can. If you don’t remember me, that’s okay. Just know that I’m your friend. Everyone in this place is your friend. We’re here because of you. We’re all taking it for granted that you know that, so please hear me: we’re in awe of you and your mind and this thing you built.”
At the door she stops, looks back at me.
“What’s the woman’s name again? The one you think you saw murdered.”
“I don’t think I saw. I saw. And her name is Daniela Vargas.”
I spend the rest of the morning at the desk, eating breakfast and scrolling through files that chronicle scientific achievements of which I have no memory.
Despite my present circumstances, it’s exhilarating to read my notes, see them progressing toward my breakthrough with the miniature cube.
The solution to creating the superposition of my disc?
Superconducting qubits integrated with an array of resonators capable of registering simultaneous states as vibrations. Sounds incomprehensibly boring, but it’s groundbreaking.
It won me the Pavia.
It apparently landed me here.
Ten years ago, my first day on the job at Velocity Laboratories, I wrote an intriguing mission statement to the entire team, essentially bringing them up to speed on the concepts of quantum mechanics and the multiverse.
One section in particular, a discussion about dimensionality, catches my eye.
We perceive our environment in three dimensions, but we don’t actually live in a 3-D world. 3-D is static. A snapshot. We have to add a fourth dimension to begin to describe the nature of our existence.
The 4-D tesseract doesn’t add a spatial dimension. It adds a temporal one.
It adds time, a stream of 3-D cubes, representing space as it moves along time’s arrow.
This is best illustrated by looking up into the night sky at stars whose brilliance took fifty light-years to reach our eyes. Or five hundred. Or five billion. We’re not just looking into space, we’re looking back through time.
Our path through this 4-D spacetime is our worldline (reality), beginning with our birth and ending with our death. Four coordinates (x, y, z, and t [time]) locate a point within the tesseract.
And we think it stops there, but that’s only true if every outcome is inevitable, if free will is an illusion, and our worldline is solitary.
What if our worldline is just one of an infinite number of worldlines, some only slightly altered from the life we know, others drastically different?
The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics posits that all possible realities exist. That everything which has a probability of happening is happening. Everything that might have occurred in our past did occur, only in another universe.
What if that’s true?
What if we live in a fifth-dimensional probability space?
What if we actually inhabit the multiverse, but our brains have evolved in such a way as to equip us with a firewall that limits what we perceive to a single universe? One worldline. The one we choose, moment to moment. It makes sense if you think about it. We couldn’t possibly contend with simultaneously observing all possible realities at once.
So how do we access this 5-D probability space?
And if we could, where would it take us?
Leighton finally comes for me in the early evening.
We take the stairwell this time, but instead of heading all the way down to the infirmary, we get off on sublevel two.
“Slight change of plan,” he tells me.
“Not just yet.”
He shows me into a place I’ve been before—the conference room where Amanda Lucas tried to debrief me the night I woke up outside the box.
The lights have been dimmed.
I ask, “What’s going on?”
“Have a seat, Jason.”
“I don’t under—”
“Have a seat.”
I pull out the chair.
Leighton sits across from me.
He says, “I hear you’ve been going through your old files.”
“Ringing any bells?”
“That’s too bad. I was hoping a trip down memory lane might spark something.”
His chair creaks.
It’s so quiet I can hear the lightbulbs humming above me.
From across the table, he watches me.
Something feels off.
Leighton says, “My father founded Velocity forty-five years ago. In my old man’s time, things were different. We built jet engines and turbofans, and it was more about keeping the big government and corporate contracts than doing cutting-edge scientific exploration. There’s just twenty-three of us now, but one thing hasn’t changed. This company has always been a family, and our lifeblood is complete and total trust.”
He turns away from me and gives a nod.
The lights kick on.
I can see beyond the smoked-glass enclosure into the small theater, and it’s filled, just like on that first night, with fifteen or twenty people.
Except no one is standing and applauding.
No one is smiling.
They’re all staring down at me.
I note the first twinge of panic looming on my horizon.
“Why are they all here?” I ask.
“I told you. We’re a family. We clean up our messes together.”
“I’m not following—”
“You’re lying, Jason. You’re not who you say you are. You’re not one of us.”
“I know, you don’t remember anything about the box. The last ten years are a black hole.”
“Sure you want to stick with that?”